Woody Durham, who for 40 years served as the Voice of the Tar Heels, has announced he has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia. The disorder affects language expression. Here is his open letter to UNC fans which you can also listen to here.
“Last winter, I was diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder, primary progressive aphasia, that affects my language expression. I want to tell you this because I will no longer be doing any public speaking. I can still enjoy the company of friends and traveling with my wife, Jean, but I am not able to address groups as I did in the past. While learning of this diagnosis was a bit of a shock for Jean and me, and yes, quite an ironic one at that, it also brought a sense of relief to us in terms of understanding what was happening to me and how best to deal with it.
Our entire family is grateful for the incredible care we have received from a group of very talented medical professionals, led by Dr. James Kurz and Dr. Daniel Kaufer, of UNC Health Care. They have helped me adapt to this diagnosis and set up a treatment plan that will help me manage my day-to-day activities as I continue to enjoy retirement.
As in the past, I will continue to attend Carolina functions and sporting events as my schedule permits; and be part of civic and other charitable endeavors throughout the state. As part of these events, we want to make people more aware of primary progressive aphasia, and the impact that these neurocognitive disorders can have on individuals, families and friends. Along with raising awareness, we hope to encourage financial support for continued research and treatment in our state, as well as nationally.
I also hope to meet many more of the people that enjoyed our radio broadcasts in the 40 years I was privileged to be the “Voice of the Tar Heels.” Those greetings and kind words have meant so much to me in the last five years, and hold a very special place in my heart.”
There is some cruel irony associated with Tar Heel greats during their twilight years. Legendary coach Dean Smith, famous for his prodigious memory and mental faculties, succumbed to dementia before passing away last year. Now Durham, who over four decades wove a tapestry of words that served as the soundtrack for so many great Tar Heel moments is having his ability to express language taken from him.
Thoughts and prayers to the Durham family during this difficult time.